Daily Archives: November 24, 2008

The Hunger Games


3 Reasons to like (OK… sort of worship) Suzanne Collins:

1) She wrote The Hunger Games, which in case you’ve been hiding in a cave somewhere since October, is her much-acclaimed first novel in what will be a trilogy. (Thank goodness).

2) She adopts feral kitties and one of them is named Zorro. (Pause here to create mental image of claw-slashing, rapier-wielding, masked kitty cat of mystery).

3) She has a big wooden bat hanging in her kitchen window. (Enough said).

So kitties and kitchen bats aside, my purpose here is to spend a little more time considering #1from the list above, because it is very important that everyone (and I mean everyone) out there understands why The Hunger Games is one seriously fantastic read.

Imagine the world after North America is long gone. Panem, a dictatorship divided into 12 Districts, is ruled centrally from a powerful city, known as the Capitol. Life in most of the districts is harsh, and that’s putting it mildly. Citizens work themselves to the bone for next to nothing, with the fruits of their labors heading straight to the wealthiest members of society. Just when you think things couldn’t get much bleaker, once a year, 2 young people, a boy and a girl, are chosen by lottery from each of the 12 districts to compete in the Hunger Games, the most twisted reality TV show you could ever imagine in which the contestants battle each other to the death in an enclosed territory known as the “arena.” The last contestant, or “tribute”, left alive is set for life, with a luxurious home and a lifetime of security and wealth guaranteed for their entire family.

The protagonist is Katniss Everdeen, who hails from the Seam, District 12, a tough mining community that has not had a winning tribute for about 30 years. Katniss is a skilled hunter, and she comes to depend on this ability as she battles for survival in the arena. The second District 12 tribute is Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son, a stoic partner for the often impulsive, sometimes fiery Katniss. What happens to these two and the rest of the fighters when the game begins is sure to keep you up late, late into the night, turning the pages straight through to the dramatic finish.

I had huge expectations for The Hunger Games, what with the glowing reviews cropping up right, left and centre. Let’s just say, I can’t imagine how I could have been more satisfied. Collins has plotted her narrative expertly; there is no excess here. She tells a tale that is tight and swift and yet still manages to remain complex in its themes. About halfway through, I crawled out of my couch-nest and wandered into the kitchen and said to my fella, “I can’t think of any way this book could possibly end that wouldn’t be completely devastating. This book rocks.” (Back to couch). Here’s a book with substance and suspense, philosophy and big time page-turnability, well-crafted characters and most of all, the promise of even more story ahead. You’ve got injustice, extreme courage, sacrifice, romance, cruelty and the dream of a better world. That’s some story.

Certainly not a light read, The Hunger Games will get readers talking. It begs the questions, “What would I do?” and “Who would I be?” I’d line up to have the chance to eavesdrop on a few conversations at teen book clubs, on the bus, in libraries, or around the dinner table as people consider what the novel means to them.

Ultimately, Suzanne Collins’s story explores the best and worst of humanity, the things about our society that make us shudder and the things that give us hope and feed our spirits in the darkest hours. So read it for yourself, give it to everyone you know, and then start crossing off the days on your calendar till the release of Book Two, in the Fall of 2009.

The Hunger Games is published by Scholastic.

Here’s what everyone else thinks:

Fuse 8
Cheryl Rainfield
Wands and Worlds
Menasha Kids
Confessions of a Bibliovore
YA New York